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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gross Domestic or Happiness Product


The small Asian country of Bhutan takes pride in the fact that it is the happiest nation in the world.The 2009 HPI Index confirmed the fact, putting Bhutan among the top 10 happy nations of the world.Bhutan has achieved what many liberal democratic world powers have failed .Under a monarchy system and with limited resources,Bhutanese are one of the most satisfied people of the world.All this raises a very important question ,whether time has come to relook the parameters that determine the efficiency and success of a state?

Traditionally GDP has been considered as the best indicator for measuring the performance efficiency of the state.However many countries with huge GDP's and high growth rates have actually been consistently ranked very low in the Happiness Index.For example consider China,analyst expects China to become the second largest economy in the world by 2010 end.However on the Happiness index China crawls at lowly 76th position with major accusations involving human rights abuse.

At the same time supporters of GDP are quick to point out the fact the Bhuatn along with being the happiest is also one of the fastest growing countries today.It grew by a startling 22.6% last year making it the second fastest growing economy in the world.So is the high growth really driving the Bhutanese Happiness. To answer this let us first consider the purpose of existence of a state:

1)To provide equal opportunities to all citizens for growth

2)To ensure basic necessities like food ,shelter and education to the citizens

3)To unify a group of people on basis of a common cultural ,linguistic or common goal

4)To collectively protect the basic rights of all its citizens against different external and internal predators

5)To set up a system which gradually reduces the rich poor divide in the country.This doesnt necessarily tantamount to socialism though

6)To set up a civil code in the state

The fulfillment of the above basic aims of a state will necessarily increase the happiness of the citizens. As we will see a high GDP and per capita income is necessary to achieve the above objectives. for eg would it be possible to provide basic food and shelter to all citizens with a low GDP..possibly not. However the trick lies in the part as to "what you consider as basic”. In US a car in every home might be a basic in necessity while in a poor African country a two square meal might be the basic necessity.

As I write this I am reminded of some lines I read a long time back "You are not happy because of what you have ,but you are happy because you have more than thy neighbour".This is precisely where Bhutan played the trick,For almost 50 years Bhutan kept its citizens away from the corroborating effects of modern televison,radio,internet and modern education etc.Scripting the future in traditional Buddhist style of simplicity ,teh Bhutanese monarchy made it a point to provide traditional education,cultural knowledge and values of simplicity to its citizen.The things so imbibed in every citizen that aspirations failed and Bhutanese have started enjoying whatever they have rather than aspiring what they havent.Blindfolding,political camapigning etc ..these are the words western political analysts use for all the above.But a closer analysis and whats wrong in it.In the bid of keeping its citizens happy Bhutan has achieved what many countries have failed.It is the most peaceful country in the world with no civil outbreaks in the world.Bhutan has achieved a high growth rate and yet prevented destruction of its environment,

Modernism has been introduced into the country keeping in pace with the economic achievments.Remember how sudden modernism played havoc with the USSR.

What’s the purpose of giving the junta the greed and hunger for a modern development when all it creates is greed,hunger,wars,new diseases and their new solutions. Perhaps time has come when nations start emulating the Bhutanese model of eco freindly and people friendly GDP growth. Aspirations may be the fuel to growth but overheating any engine kills it.So cool down and grow with the pace nature wants you to

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